Low-VOC Finish Recommendations

California finishers share their views on finishes that comply with tough West Coast VOC regulations. December 8, 2012

We have been using Mac Lac (RJ McClennon) products but are looking to change. We are in California so itís low VOC. So far, I have only found a couple of companies - Mohawk, Sherwin Williams, Gemini. I would love to hear your thoughts on the pluses, minuses, or even other products you may suggest we look toward. Customer service, training, and product availability are all keys to us.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor B:
Being in the Bay Area/NorCal you might think going WB'd considering clientele up there. Low voc's much more enviro-friendly, no solvent clean up, etc. There are lots of good WB's out there. Solvent products will always have their place for exterior work and for surfaces that you can't sand, like a roughsawn finishes, open beams, tongue and groove, etc. The way it's going here in Cali with reg's you might be better off learning it now than have the state tell you to learn it sometime in the not so distant future.

There are no shortage of opinions here about WB's. I use General Finishes for all my interior work pigmented/clears and stains/dyes. When I used solvents it was hard to go wrong with SW for CV and lacquer. I don't like their stains much (some people swear by them). I prefer Mohawk stains/dyes for solvents. Both products should be readily available up there. Mohawk has an extensive training program (pricey), seminars, and a good tech support line. Not sure if SW has a training program other than the sales rep coming out.

From contributor H:
There are some very serviceable 275 solvent finishes available without traveling down the WB road. Cascade in San Jose has both pre-cat and CV in 275 from Chemcraft. Chemical Coatings in Benicia is carrying Gemini as well as SW in San Leandro. SW has a wonderful real post cat. acrylic. CC gave me a demo of a 50% solid CV that is compliant and has next to no odor. Two coats with my gravity and I fully filled the grain on clara walnut. My high-end go to finish is the post cat. from SW.

From contributor B:
Down here in SoCal we have SCAQMD which is very strict for in-house stuff but there were waivers for on-site, up to 550 (mostly nitro's) last time I looked (could've been lowered since) for what they call architectural work.

From contributor H:
Does South Coast have an exemption of refinishing work? You are allowed to use like and kind finishes to the original. Not that the suppliers want to bring in anything but 275 compliant materials.

From contributor B:
You can get 680 if you don't mind buying it in quarts. The 550 is still available in 1's and 5's. Gemini makes 680 not sure if they package in quarts for Cali though.